12 October 2011 ~ 32 Comments

How Life in Japan Almost Ruined My Trip To China!

I wish I had gone to China without having lived in Japan first. Living here almost ruined my trip to China.

Almost.

Have you ever spoken to a Japanese person about China or Chinese? Have they ever uttered a single positive thing about either, or something that didn’t have a big ass BUT attached to it? Chinese food is delicious, but…. China has an incredible history, butChinese people are clever, but… If you have, please let me know in the comments. I’d be curious to know what it was.

Once I told this guy I met in Shibuya, who happened to be from Spain, that he reminded me of a friend of mine who just happened to be from Puerto Rico. He’d have liked to kill me if his face was any indication of what was in his heart. While I was in China, I mistakenly asked one of my tour companions, who happened to be Irish, which part of England was he from. If looks could kill… I learned early on in my time in Japan that a good way to get under a Japanese person’s skin (if you were so inclined) is to suggest that they looked like, behaved like, or reminded you of anyone Chinese.

Think I’m kidding? Try it!

I was a Chinaphile before I came to Japan.  China was actually the place I wanted to end up. Japan was supposed to be just a pit stop… A place to get acclimated to life in Asia before I made the big leap of faith. I was  a little afraid to go to China, to be honest. Afraid a visit might tear down the pedestal I’d erected and placed it atop.

Like admiring a famous actor or a historical figurel; you don’t really want to meet them. I mean, what if Jamie Foxx is a real prick? Or Malcolm X wanted to take you to titty bar in Harlem? That would just fuck me up. I didn’t want China to fuck me up, so I came to Japan first.  I wasn’t infatuated with Japan before arriving,  so I haven’t been disillusioned so much by the reality here.

And, part of that reality is I’m forced to endure the atitudes many Japanese have towards Chinese.

Some of my Japanese friends, students and co-workers talk about Chinese people the way Nazis talked about Jews. No, I don’t want to overstate it. More like the way snobby, benevolent rich people talk about shiftless, ungrateful poor people. No, I don’t want to understate it, either. But, there’s a clear undercurrent of contempt in most everything people say. Only it’s said, I don’t know, politely…sometimes.

For example, this conversation took place a week before I left:

Me: Did I tell you? I’m going to China next week! I’m so excited!

Student: Really? Why?

Me: What? What do you mean why? Why am I excited?

Student: No, I mean, why are you going to China? Is it for business?

Me: No…it’s my vacation.

Student: Oh. Ohhhh. That’s nice. But, why China?

Me: Why? Have you been to China before?

Student: Oh no. I went to Hong King and Taiwan, though.

Me: Okayyy. Is China very different from Taiwan and Hong Kong? Wait a minute…Isn’t Hong Kong in China?

Student: Hong Kong people are not like Chinese people. And, Taiwan people love Japanese people.

Me: I see. Chinese people don’t like Japanese people?

Student: China is a very poor country and Chinese people are…very different from Japanese people, I think.

Me: I should hope so.

Student: Huh?

Me: Nothing

Student: China is very dangerous. So take care.

Me: Is the whole country dangerous? Or, are there certain places I should avoid?

Student: I don’t know. Maybe everywhere is dangerous.

Me: Maybe I shouldn’t go? Maybe I should go someplace else…like France…or Australia maybe?

Student: Oh, yes! France is soooo beautiful! Very great atmosphere and beautiful people and… (Commence gush-fest)

That was one of the nicer conversations…

*****

There are a number of Chinese students in my school, only I can’t say much schooling is taking place because most of them are from China (not born here in Japan) and cannot speak Japanese (nor English) and only a couple of teachers can speak Cantonese (which is the Chinese language spoken by most of the students.) Most of these bilingual teacher’s efforts are spent trying to drill the Japanese language into obstinate Chinese brains. So, mostly, the Chinese students sit in my English class amusing themselves or sleeping, totally ignored by the Japanese teacher…and the Japanese students.

Back in the teachers office we’d meet to discuss the lesson. I’m always trying to figure out ways to include them in the lessons, to get them more involved, mingling with their Japanese counterparts. The Japanese teacher would listen to my ideas, politely and patiently, and then respond with something to the effect of: They don’t have much in common with the other students, do they? Or, they aren’t very bright, are they? Or, some of them are troublemakers, aren’t they? They have a whole slew of excuses. Being Chinese is treated like a handicap.

Personally, I think it’s unacceptable but I’ve learned from experience not to muck with Japanese school policies and office politics too much. I’ve had a knife thrust into my back by a polite and patient co-worker before and it hurts more than when it’s done by the person who makes it clear they’re out to get you. But, nevertheless, during class, I’d go up to a Chinese student and try to engage them, get him or her to participate in the lesson, and, to my dismay, they’d look at me like: what’s your problem? Save your energy, pal! You think I want to learn English? Hell, I don’t even want to learn Japanese!

Of course, what they are really thinking and feeling I have no way of knowing. The true reason they appear to have absolutely no interest in being in that class room beats the hell outta me. I believe, however, it has as much to do with the language barrier as it does with the low expectations of the teachers. I mean, if they were expected to do well, I know they could and I believe they would. I suspect my negative assessment of their facial expression and behavior has been heavily influenced by the over-abundance of negative critiques they’ve received from my co-workers over the course of the past three years.

But, that’s just one aspect of how my trip to China was affected by my life here in Japan. And, to be honest, it wasn’t a very impactful one at all. I mean, the same reason Chinese students aren’t excelling in Japanese schools can be said about African-Americans in public schools across America (except for the language barrier, of course). I grew up in schools where some of the teachers had similar attitudes about me, and little to no effort was made to incentivize or inspire…I think students pick up on the attitude of their teachers and schools. If the teacher doesn’t care why should they? So, I didn’t go to China thinking they were stupid, or lazy, or shiftless, or troublemakers, per se. No, my trip to China was impacted more by something altogether different.

As a non-Asian foreigner living in Japan, the one thing you slowly begin to take less and less notice of is ironically the most obvious one: Virtually everyone around you is Asian. Seems silly, right? Of course they’re Asian. Duh! This is Asia. And, more specifically, and importantly, they are Japanese. Don’t get me wrong. You never forget you’re in Japan, and trust me the Japanese will never let you forget you are not Japanese. They are simply incapable of doing so.

But, slowly and surely, (and if you’re like me and don’t get around Asia much) you start to think that this is life in Asia. You think you’ve learned a great deal about Asians and about yourself…and, it’s true…you have. You’re a genius with regards to Asia compared to your friends back home who’ve never left the West, and maybe even compared to some of your friends here in the East. You’re a friggin’ connoisseur. You’ve been there, and you’ve done that. You’ve seen it all.

So, what happens? You get off an ANA flight in the China you’ve been waiting a lifetime to see and you’ve been hearing so much (negativity) about from your Japanese friends, and you step into the cleanest, most spacious, most beautiful (and emptiest) airport you’ve ever seen…

P1140333

P1140338

…and somehow you just know: You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Loco

Who is this guy, Loco, anyway? Click here!

PS This is a re-post

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32 Responses to “How Life in Japan Almost Ruined My Trip To China!”

  1. franeymoon 12 October 2011 at 10:43 pm Permalink

    Great post!
    I will never understand how people can get angry if you guess they’re from another country than they really are. It’s not written on your face and I think it’s good that way… Being in Japan I often get angry when someone is proud to be able to distinguish Asians from different countries by their looks. What’s that good for? I thought we got over this nationalist shit…
    I didn’t know about the situation of Chinese children in Japanese schools. Reminds me very much of the current discussion on how to better integrate foreign children into German schools, but at least there is a discussion. It’s a shame the Japanese teachers don’t even seem to be interested in better integration.

    • Locohama 12 October 2011 at 10:58 pm Permalink

      Hey Franey!1 Thanks! Yeah, it’s sad. “I thought we got over this nationalist shit…”
      Not sure where you got that idea from lol Seriously though, I do feel a sense of this in SOME people but the vast majority hold steadfastly to their nationalistic, prejudiced and ethnic paradigms. At least in my exoperience,,,and I’m from NYC, the place where these walls have the best chance of being torn down like that one in Berlin! You know? Anyway…thanks again love!

      • franeymoon 14 October 2011 at 6:38 pm Permalink

        Unfortunately, I think you’re right. My idea springs from my school education I guess. We had to learn about nationalism countless times and I really thought that would be enough to make people understand. But obviously it doesn’t work for everybody… Sad sad world.

  2. Eddie 13 October 2011 at 12:06 am Permalink

    Good read as usual but this post feels like deja vu.

    • Locohama 13 October 2011 at 12:08 am Permalink

      huh? what do you mean?

      • Eddie 14 October 2011 at 3:55 pm Permalink

        I just thought this was a re post. Like I thought I remembered seeing it before. Maybe I’m thinking of something else lol

        • Locohama 14 October 2011 at 4:10 pm Permalink

          At the bottom of the post it says it’s a re-post! Good Memory…two years ago!

          • Eddie 15 October 2011 at 3:05 am Permalink

            lol I just noticed it said that. Maybe I should pay attention better!

  3. Derek 13 October 2011 at 12:41 am Permalink

    Nice post! I spent lots of time in Japan (primarily Tokyo, I used to have a flat in Ebisu just south of Shibuya Station) and as such I am well aware of the Chinese-Japanese tensions. I never had any interesting conversations with locals about the subject tho.

    But I am prepping a trip to Beijing now (purely so I can gain access to DPRK), so I will have to remember to watch what I say about Japan. Thanks for the tip!

    • Locohama 13 October 2011 at 2:02 pm Permalink

      Thanks for the shout Derek! My post focused on the Japanese behavior, not on the Chinese…i really don’t know how the Chinese will respond to comments about the Japanese, so that tip didn’t come from me.
      Good Luck in Beijing and make sure you try the Duck among other things. the best thing about Beijing for me was the food. period. exclamation point! (-;

  4. Jonathan 13 October 2011 at 1:15 am Permalink

    I will try to come back to post a better and longer comment tomorrow, now I m going to bed, but just wanted to say that japanese image of chinese is not completely wrong.. chinese in Japan and chinese in china are different.. if I have to give an opinion about chinese people only with the chinese I know in Japan, I would say China is not a place to go.. even that China is a place to avoid like hell ! … I have for the moment 48 chinese students living in our dormitory.. and when I go make a check of the appartment ( 5peoples living in private 3LDK appartment) the place is always so dirty! it s incredible! really, some time I feel sick to see bath room, or kitchen..and have to leave the place!!! is that bad! I have to hire some people to clean before new students come, and even them, cleaning pro, are shocked sometimes… I don’t know how the hell they can live in that dirt! ( and I don’t speak about the money they have to give us for the damages!)

    So if Japanese people meet only that kind of people…

    and I don’t say that chinese are like this ne! I know some normal people too lol.. but if I wasn’t, and known only the students, I would have a bad image of china ;-)

    • Locohama 13 October 2011 at 2:16 am Permalink

      Well, geezus man, I’m sure there are people living like that on your home world in Europe, no?, And for damn sure I know some personally in NY. Even worse. But unfortunately, in order to take issue with them and their race I’d have to lump myself in and take issue with myself. Not an option. Nor could I label All Americans that way. That’s just irrational man. You just got some nasty people in the world…that’s all! I’d take those Chinese you just mentioned over a Chikan (pervert) molesting school girls on the train any day. And ALL the chikans I’ve ever seen are Japanese. I certainly don’t think of the entire Japanese race as disgusting. Think o itf that way… that might help you! Sorry Buddy but it’s thinking like that that makes me feel ARGGGGHH! Because I’m the target of the SAME GODDAMN thinking here in Japan. Some black guy does something bad in Roppongi or Okinawa on a fucking movie video or even in someone’s fucked imagination, and I catch the flack and get treated like a co-fucking-conspirator here in Yokohama. because we share a race. That’s where your thinking leads! If you disagree please take a sec and explain!
      i know those chinese pissed you off but don’t take it out on the entire race….geezus. We’re talking 2 Billion human beings! I\m not saying you should pity them, or even forgive them. I’m just saying if you’re gonna judge them, then judge THEM! Not the other 2,999,999,952 that share their ethnicity, regardless of where they live.. Speaking from experience (recovering racist here..and current survivor of regular offenses that disgust me more than the poor hygiene, uncleanliness and shady practices of a handful of immigrants) that’s a dark path you’re on.
      Of course if none of the above applies to you then accept my apologies in advance (-;

      • Jonathan (lifeyoutv) 13 October 2011 at 2:19 pm Permalink

        Hey Loco, that’s why I said : ” and I don’t say that chinese are like this ne!”

        I said that it s easy to make generality of some personal experience.. Because we also have korean, russian, french, thai, philipine, and senegalese.. but chinese are the only one to shit on the floor and don’t care about it.. ( what kind of people is that??? lol and they are not poor young guy from the countryside.. they have lot of money.. so I don’t know.. lack of respect? it’s really irritating…

        And one more time, I don’t say that 1,500,000,000 chinese are like that.. I know a lot that are very cool.. but unfortunately none of my students :-(

        so now, imagine the reaction of the owner of the building.. he s an old guy who never left Japan and the only chinese he know are the students that demolish his building everyday.. well, some time I have to face racist reaction from him about chinese..

        So you can say anything, but it s how you do in foreign country that will give good or bad image of your country in that foreign country, people don’t care how you live in your country..
        Every body are ambassador of his country.. and it s the same everywhere on the planet..

        I don’t know if yo understand why I mean, not easy to explain lol

        cheers man ;-)

        • Locohama 13 October 2011 at 3:49 pm Permalink

          Probably more than a lack of respect. Probably out and out hostility and animosity, and with the atmosphere between the two nations it’s no surprise. I feel like doing the same more often than I’d like to admit lol But I couldn’t live in it. Seriuously though, hate is a merry go round that never stops until someone says ENOUGH! These guys just aren’t there yet. I understand where you’re coming from. There are millions of chinese “ambassadors” here in Japan, and I’d wager most don’t shit on floors, but are just trying to be good and not hurt anyone who trespasses on their good nature. I know a few myself. Thanks for the shout, yo! Hope to see you at the next Tweetup!!

  5. Rochelle Kopp 13 October 2011 at 1:25 am Permalink

    Since you asked for examples of Japanese who are positive about China, I do indeed know some. One is a friend who studied abroad in Beijing, and currently works for a publisher of books related to China. The other was an executive at a big Japanese business organization, who got very interested in China and after he retired he got a job teaching at a university in China and is living there happily now. These are extreme examples of course. But they do exist.

    • Locohama 13 October 2011 at 1:53 am Permalink

      Wow thanks Rochelle! It’s refreshing to hear that! I haven’t heard much good in years, in this respect. There’s hope!!

    • Jonathan (lifeyoutv) 13 October 2011 at 2:26 pm Permalink

      I saw something about 65% of highly educated japanese man ( mostly engineer ) go to work in china after retiring in Japan..

      and it s a problem for Japan because their is nobody now to teach their experience to the young Japanese..

      in China they are very well paid, and they do nothing, they just have to explain to the young chinese how to do that or that..

      So it s not all Japanese who hate china ;-) a lot of japanese live in china ;-)

  6. Dochimichi1 13 October 2011 at 5:43 am Permalink

    Interesting! I would really really love to go to China one day. There are certain stereotypes about Chinese people in UK too (and especially in my home country of Russia, of course, – evil Chinese population about to cross the borders and overflow the country, etc, etc), but I’ll wait until I came make my own mind about it.
    I get called Polish all the time, which could carry the negative connotations, since, according to all the dole people, “Polish people are taking our jobs and send all the earnings out of the country”. I don’t mind, it’s just annoying sometimes, because I can’t see the need to ask or comment on that anyway. So if I were, so what? What’s the point in putting labels on people, nationality or whatever.
    But – I think there are certain differences between the cultures, and certain things you could – but not should – expect. I suppose, the best way to go about it is, as you said in one of your posts, to try and find similarities between yourselves, rather than differences. And, I think, to treat everyone equally to start with.

    • Locohama 13 October 2011 at 2:04 pm Permalink

      I hate stereotypes…
      And yes a shift to discussions of similarities will be refeshing, especially up in this piece!
      Thanks for the shout!

  7. audience 13 October 2011 at 9:31 am Permalink

    I think Koreans have similar attitude toward Japanese and Chinese. I hope these people realize that in the west (US in my case)other Asians are the ones more likely to give them a helping hand or the benefit of the doubt. I hope they can learn from Hawaiians, mixed mutts of different Asian heritage with no grudge toward one another. I guess they are like whites and blacks from the mainland. (mixed European and African mutts)

  8. RoseMoon 13 October 2011 at 12:08 pm Permalink

    China and Japan, as far as political tensions go, still feel a strain of animosity between each other. Surely there will be a few people here and there who don’t feel this way, but these scars go back as recently as World War II.

    When Japan was going through its colonialist rampage in the 1930s, they felt they were the most superior of the Asian races and legitimized themselves to conquering others (China, Phillipines, Korea, so forth). Somehow, I don’t think these nationalist tendencies have completely gone away, and it filters down over the years to the minds of regular folks, and then they get little ideas stuck in their head about how China and Chinese people are. The tables are turning, of course, as China becomes a little more aggressive politically and is in more of a position to pick on Japan.

    Don’t get me wrong though–I love both countries. I just always consider the historical background and look for connections that way.

  9. lenawash 13 October 2011 at 3:32 pm Permalink

    I know your blog is about Japan but I think it would be nice as a “part 2″ to have your impressions of this trip in China. How was it? and did your trip changed your views on the japanese prejudice against china?

    As an example of positive view, in my company we almost dropped the idea of expanding to china cause “they’re just too aggresive and there’s no way we can compete with them”. My boss said that with a fair amount of respect in his tone (which suprised me from a salaryman of 40-50).

    oh and btw, I went to shanghai like a month ago and the friend I stayed with (japanewbie, you might have heard of him, he’s somewhat known in the japan-gaijin blogosphere) told me that chinese people had crazy prejudice against japanese… doesn’t excuse anything but it shows the situation ain’t getting better any soon I think.

  10. Amy 13 October 2011 at 6:37 pm Permalink

    I’ve been to Japan with a group of Chinese 20-something girls, and in a high school visit we actually came across a group of girls who were highly interested in China, had been teaching themselves Mandarin, things like that. It was pretty cool. Naturally the fact that I was with Chinese girls would filter what was expressed around me, but… you know.

    • Locohama 13 October 2011 at 7:03 pm Permalink

      That’s nice to hear! I hope these two nations can sort things out. Maybe the new generatioin will be able to let go of the old genration’s animosities ne. Thanks for the shout Amy! Love good news

  11. Zimoich 20 October 2011 at 4:04 pm Permalink

    Read your article yesterday, then I read this one today.

    http://www.menafn.com/qn_news_story.asp?storyid=%7B2b11a791-6d09-4eb8-bb85-08fdd83c326c

    Conclusion, korea worse Xenophobia than Japan.
    A trip to korea could make you more quite unhappy, but the reverse effect once you´re back in Japan. You always appreciate you situation more when you´ve experienced something similar but worse somwewhere else.

  12. aMirror2U 9 October 2012 at 6:28 am Permalink

    Something struck me as slightly incongruous and odd in your article.

    “They don’t have much in common with the other students, do they? Or, they aren’t very bright, are they? Or, some of them are troublemakers, aren’t they? ”

    In this passage, you emphasize the “they” and rightly point out that this is stereotyping on a grand scale.
    And yet, only a few lines later you yourself say,

    “You never forget you’re in Japan, and trust me the Japanese will never let you forget you are not Japanese. They are simply incapable of doing so.”

    Here you are, guilty of doing exactly the same thing you are complaining about!

    Well, everybody has their blind spots, and it’s looks like I’ve just found yours!

    Remember,

    Japanese stereotyping the Chinese IS racist.
    Loco stereotyping the Japanese IS racist.

    I hope you ponder this a bit, as it’s all too easy for sites like this, even if you have good intentions, to quickly slip and degenerate into Japan bashing without even realizing it.

    • Locohama 9 October 2012 at 7:23 am Permalink

      Thanks for the shout! Sorry, i know you feel like you got deep and shit but if you Take a peek to the right You will see something interesting…see that book cover? You see the title of the book? In other words, Not exactly so much a blind spot as an ugly spot. You should check the book out…or check out other posts b4 you make your assessments. It’s a good read, btw, I’m told.

      • aMirror2U 9 October 2012 at 6:37 pm Permalink

        Yeah, something doesn’t quite sit right.

        In your JT interview you said you don’t think Japanese people should be given a free pass to be racist just because of cultural reasons, but it seems like you’ve pulled the same trick for yourself by using an “ironic” book title.

        If you give yourself carte blanche to be human and being openly racist is part of your learning and growing experience, then why do you fly off the handle so often when Japanese people make the slightest transgression against your strict PC rules?

        Other posts have you chasing people through trains and abusing taxi drivers because you think they’ve slighted you, but it’s fair game for you to stereotype the Japanese on your website because that’s your “schtick”? Something doesn’t gel, it makes you sound like a selfish, do as I say, not as I do, well, “gaijin”.

        I don’t know if that’s what you intend for this site or it truly is a blind spot but how can you continue being a crusader for people’s rights to freedom from discrimination while indulging whole-heartedly in that behaviour yourself?

        Aren’t you going to run right smack into a wall?

        I understand if you don’t want to reply, or just want to make a flippant remark, it’s your website.

        • Locohama 9 October 2012 at 8:22 pm Permalink

          Because I’m hypercritical…and ironic. Not a crusader…just calling it like it is.
          And I give you flippant answers because You’re boring and obvious.
          If you really want to discuss shit, lets meet for a brew…orif you’re “shy” just use your real email address and stop hiding your ip address. I hate fake ass trolls.
          Until then, well….take what you get, cheeseburger etc…

  13. aMirror2U 11 October 2012 at 6:36 am Permalink

    Yes, I understand that you don’t want criticism on your website. Fair enough, this is more a page for fans to write messages of support and so on.

    However, as an aspiring writer, I hoped you would have something more insightful to say rather than, “boring and obvious”, “take what you get”, both rather childish responses from someone so thoughtful.

    I admire your stance against discrimination but I wonder if you allow yourself that blind spot against Japanese people in order to win popularity with a certain demographic. It wouldn’t be the first time someone has framed this debate in terms of “humanity versus the evil Japanese”. It sets it up in such a way that it becomes acceptable to say anything about the Japanese because they are the enemy of the common good.

    Looking at it from a more objective viewpoint though, a lot of the complaints in Japan are of a fairly trivial, although serious, nature. There’s a lot of “perceived slights”, micro-aggression and so forth. There’s not so much of the real aggression, violence and hatred that accompanies racism in Western countries, and yet the Japanese are somehow painted as being so far gone that’s it’s ok or even necessary to stereotype them out of reality and into an existence where they are seen as a subhuman mass of groupthink robots.

    I assume you wouldn’t like to follow that path laid done by other, lesser men.

    • Locohama 11 October 2012 at 10:13 am Permalink

      Like I said, and you promptly ignored, if you want to have a debate lets meet for a beer…face to face. See if you’re real cuz I have my doubts. You seem like the kind of person I could have a lovely little debate with. I’m open to it. Are you? You know where I’m at.Yokohama, baby. I don’t hide cuz I’m real! Are you? If not shut the hell up already. This is my last response to anything you, cheeseburger or any other psudonym you go by has to say via this blog, except to seta place and time for our debate (-;


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